By Laura McHale Holland

My boy and I walk the bridge over the water, gray murk churning slowly by.

As a youngster, I longed to dive in, blend with the current. I threw my school pictures in each autumn instead, effigies of me, drowning.

My boy dashes ahead and climbs part way up the rail. I cach up, grab his arm. “Oh, Mommy, let’s jump in,” he says.

I wonder how fast we would fall, how much it would hurt to hit the water. “No, dear, we have a train to catch,” I say. I draw him down to the pavement and take his hand. We skip to the other side.

Soon we are by the tracks, hands in pockets. My thoughts drift from the bridge to the rails just a few feet away. Does everyone passing want to jump, or is it just a particular sort of person like me, like my son, someone with a bent difficult to explain, more difficult to shake?

The whistle blows; my son leaps onto the tracks. I leap, too, and await the train.


Photo by Lachlan


A glowing review

I wrote a review yesterday of Rasana Atreya’s novel, and now here’s a review I just received from Michelle and Denise, who run the Families of the Mentally Ill blog. They posted it on their website (http://familiesofthementallyill.com/2012/07/03/book-review-reversible-skirt/), on Amazon and on Smashwords:

Reversible Skirt, by Laura McHale Holland, is a heart-breaking memoir about one young mother’s suicide as seen through the eyes of her youngest child, Laura. A toddler at the time of the tragedy, Laura is initially bewildered by the changes swirling around her family, including the appearance of a new stepmother, who is simply passed off as the same person to the children.

The author has done a masterful job of capturing the thought process of a young child as she struggles to make sense of the changes in her world. The tragic events of the girls’ lives aren’t over, unfortunately. The abuse they experience as they grow and confront of the truth of their mother’s death and their father’s choices can be painful to read. Yet it’s worth persevering, because the book ends with Laura and her sisters finding strength and peace in adulthood.

Reversible Skirt describes a time in our not-too-distant past where mental illness and suicide were swept under the rug. While we have made some gains as a society, the situation will feel familiar to those of us who have lived through mental illness in our own families. What was most intriguing about the book was how the author and her sisters forgave their abusive stepmother after everything she did to them as children. Their ability to survive and recover from their challenging childhoods is uplifting. The capacity they show for forgiveness is truly inspiration.


A stunning review of Reversible Skirt

I stumbled upon this review of my memoir, Reversible Skirt, on Goodreads. It’s by a member named Ana:

“Reversible Skirt is probably the most honest and gripping memoir I’ve read. McHale Holland is on my top 10 of writers writing today. She’s managed to tell a tragic story fraught with emotion without the poor poor pitiful me some writers might have fallen prey to.”



Guest post at TellTale Souls

I don’t have a story ready this week yet (I’m still thinking over what direction I want to go in this year), but I do have a guest post up at Lynn Henriksen’s TellTale Souls blog. It has to do with mothers, and, well, mothers are what brought us all into this world, and some of us are mothers ourselves, so it’s hard to be neutral on the topic, isn’t it?

I hope my thoughts on my mother and stepmother stimulate you to share your own perspectives.

Here’s the link:



I’m on a blog tour

I’m not ready to post this week’s story yet, but in the meantime, I thought I’d post the links to the blog tour I’m doing right now. It began Mon., Dec. 5 and will end Fri. Dec. 16.

Here’s where I’ve been so far:

As The Pages Turn: http://asthepagesturn.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/spotlight-on-reversible-skirt-by-laura-mchale-holland/

Divine Caroline:  http://www.divinecaroline.com/49804/120622-interview-author-laura-mchale-holland

Inky Blots:  http://www.inkyblots.com/pick-up-your-pen-by-guest-author-laura-mchale-holland/

Live to Read:  http://livetoread-krystal.blogspot.com/

Here’s where I expect to be the rest of this week and next week:

Thursday, December 8th
Guest Post at Book Spark: http://www.book-spark.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 9th
Book Trailer at If Books Could Talk:  http://bookvideos.wordpress.com/

Monday, December 12th
Interview at The Examiner:  http://www.examiner.com/publishing-in-virginia-beach/interview-with-laura-mchale-holland-author-of-reversible-skirt

Tuesday, December 13th
Interview at Literarily Speaking  http://literarilyspeaking.net/

Wednesday, December 14th
Radio Interview at Pump Up Your Book  http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/

Thursday, December 15th
Review and Giveaway at Radiant Light http://www.frommipov.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 16th
Interview at Paperback Writer http://rebecca2007.wordpress.com/

There’s going to be some kind of interaction at the Pump Up Your Book Facebook page for all the authors who decided to do this holiday season tour special on the 16th. I’ll provide more details on that next week.



Here’s this week’s story. What say you?

By Laura McHale Holland

Letting go is like trying to peel your skin off, Jeffrey thought, his hands gripping the slender ledge at the bottom of the overpass, his feet dangling above a freeway ominously empty at 8 a.m.

“I know it hurts, son, but you’ve gotta hold on,” said an old man in the 49ers cap. He had called 911 and brought the morning commute to a standstill. “Hold on, and it’ll get better. I swear.”

The old man was leaning over the rail stretching down, but his hands were about a foot shy of Jeffrey’s wrists. Jeffrey grunted. His arms ached. His fingers and ears itched. Tears rolled down his face. It was supposed to have been over long before the sunrise, the TV news coverage, the traffic jams, the negotiator striding up to the old man, ordering him to step away.

A helicopter hovered overhead. The old man straightened up and stepped back. The negotiator cleared his throat. Jeffrey loosened his grip, looking up at the helicopter’s blades slicing the clear blue sky as he fell backward, unaware that a net stretched below him just in time to break his fall, just in time to force him into another day.

The old man ripped off his cap, pulled a pen from his front pocket, scratched his phone number on the bill. He lunged back to the rail and tossed the cap over the edge. It floated down and landed on Jeffrey’s stomach as he bounced, disappointed, in the net.


Reversible Skirt is now available as an ebook

Just a quick note tonight to let you know my memoir, Reversible Skirt, is now available in ebook on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s half off ($2.50) on Smashwords for the month of July, too. My toolbar isn’t displaying the linking tool, so I’ll just paste the link to Smashwords in here. Maybe it’ll go live automatically (optimism at work here). If not, I hope you don’t mind just pasting it into your browser’s address bar: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/71015


Life along the coast

This story reminds me a little of “Long Gone,” which I posted April 4. The picture’s missing one important element in the story. Does it matter? What do you think?

Life Along the Coast
By Laura McHale Holland

He saw her perched, like a heroine in a romance novel, at the precipice—her long auburn waves and diaphanous gown blowing in the wind behind her. She was on the wrong side of the guard rail, clinging to it with both hands as she leaned down.

Other people were closer to her, but they didn’t seem to see her. He ran across the parking lot toward the lookout point. He waved his arms and called, “Stop her. She’s about to jump. Look!”

She let one hand go of the rail. He ran faster. She lost her footing and slipped down, but one hand still held on. He closed in, 20 feet, 15, 10, 5. She lost her grip. He leaped. But he missed his mark and tumbled over edge of the continent. He fell down, down, down, bouncing against jagged boulders until his body hit the beach far below.

Later, witnesses said it happened so fast, they hadn’t really had time to react. The man had pulled into the parking lot, gotten out of his car, run to the cliff and gone over. He hadn’t even closed his car door. He’d screamed something on his way, but nobody could make out what it was.

The sheriff wondered why at least one young man ran to his death like that every year. All he could figure was the lookout must be some kind of draw for guys who had no hope; he chalked it up as just another part of life along the coast.


An excellent review

Here’s what Karynda Lewis of Apex Reviews just wrote about Reversible Skirt:

Official Apex Reviews Rating: Five Stars

When her mother commits suicide, little Laura’s father remarries – rather hastily – and promptly informs his three daughters that his new wife is their mother. As the young girls struggle to adjust to their new family life, their father’s untimely death soon thrusts their collective world into even greater chaos – culminating in their stepmother’s brutal, escalating abuse. With no one but each other left in the world, it remains to be seen if the sisters’ tortured bond can endure through the worst of adversity…

Reversible Skirt is a thoroughly heartrending read. In her moving new memoir, author Laura McHale Holland takes the reader through the deepest recesses of grief, sorrow, and abuse – all from the fragile perspective of an innocent, unsuspecting child. What ultimately proves most impressive about Holland’s spiritual sojourn is that – despite the unchecked chaos of her upbringing – she perseveres through it all with an unbreakable, sweet spirit. Such unflappable strength is highly commendable – not to mention rare – and your appreciation of Holland’s genuine loving warmth is sure to grow by leaps and bounds with the turning of each fresh page. A highly recommended tale of learning to overcome the worst that life has to offer.


Our favorite cover for Reversible Skirt

Reversible Skirt front cover

This is a beautiful version of the cover for Reversible Skirt that my sister Kathy did a while back. She is thinking of adding some subtle color to it. I can hardly wait to see what she does next.

This isn’t proportional to the dimensions of what the actual book will be (this looks like a 6×9 cover, and the book will be 5.25 x 8), so there will be less of the lower part of our mother’s picture, which, I believe, will be a good thing.

I think the picture of our mother ghosted in the background is so fitting, but maybe it should be a bit lighter. In the next version, I expect we’ll dispense with the notice of the RockWay Press award, too.

What do you think? Isn’t Kathy brilliant?


Blurb for back cover of Reversible Skirt

How’s this for the description to go on the back cover of Reversible Skirt?

When the mother of three little girls commits suicide, her husband wants more than anything to keep his family together, though his in-laws believe the children should be split up for proper care. He remarries in haste and tells his daughters his new wife is their mother. The youngest, Laura, believes her mother must have gone through a kind of magical transformation.

Reversible Skirt is written from Laura’s point of view as she sifts through remnants of her mother’s existence and struggles to fit into a community where her family’s strict rules are not the norm. When Laura’s father dies, her stepmother grows increasingly abusive, which propels Laura and her sisters into a lasting alliance. Thus their father’s wish that they stay together comes true, although not in the way he’d imagined.


Beside suicide’s door: A guest blog

Lynn Henriksen invited me to do a guest blog for her TellTale Souls blog. She posted it today at http://telltalesouls.com/blog/. Much of Lynn’s work centers on collecting stories about the mother/daughter relationship. And through her workshops (some of which are done in collaboration with Kate Farrell), she succeeds in creating a very safe, supportive place for daughters to explore their memories and write keepsake memoirs about their mothers. She has also collected a number of such stories for a book, which her agent is shopping to publishers now. So, when writing the guest blog, my thoughts naturally drifted toward my mother, who, unfortunately, committed suicide when I was very young.

Lynn’s blog, which she updated frequently, also has book reviews, contests and links to interesting resources.


Are they waiting?

Here’s a poem I just wrote.

Are they waiting?
By Laura McHale Holland

Are they waiting in rays of sunlight
kissing the ivy that creeps
across the courtyard?

When I sleep,
do they peek in my refrigerator
straighten album pictures
check on my daughter
pet the dog?

Forever suspended
do they ask
what might have been?

Would they have danced the Watusi,
campaigned for George McGovern
joined the Peace Corps?

What scars would have
etched their skin?

What songs would they
have sung
to me,
my brothers and sisters
never born
to a mother
who choked
her breath
with a rope
long ago